Open Government Initiative
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Social Security Administration (SSA)
2012 Open Government News Archive

Retirement Estimator Just Got Better


For several years, the Retirement Estimator has been a great way to get immediate and personalized estimates of future retirement benefits based on different retirement situations. Earlier this month, we gave the estimate page a new look, allowing users to read their estimates at a glance, in table format!

Workers can use the Retirement Estimator to test different retirement ages, learn how to maximize retirement benefits by delaying retirement, and find out how working after retirement might affect benefits.

Check it out for yourself

The Best Time to Contact Social Security During the Holidays


If you need to conduct business with Social Security during the holiday season, please remember that our offices will be closed on December 25 and January 1. In addition, anyone calling or visiting a Social Security office between December 26 and New Year's Eve might experience longer waits than usual.

However, our online services are available even on holidays. Anyone can visit to complete a number of transactions, such as getting a Social Security Statement, applying for retirement, disability, or spouse’s benefits, checking the status of pending applications, getting instant, personalized estimates of future benefits with the Retirement Estimator, requesting a replacement Medicare card, or applying for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs.

Find a list of online services and their hours of operation at

Another Way to Stay in the Know


There are two other easy ways to get Social Security news and information in a flash. One is to "like" us on Facebook. Simply click the Facebook icon on our homepage and then select "like." You also can follow Social Security on Twitter by clicking on the Twitter icon on our homepage.

Whether you prefer posts, tweets, or good old-fashioned newsletter articles, you can find them all at our home page:

Subscribe to Social Security Update today and you'll always be in the know when it comes to Social Security news. All we need is your e-mail address. Subscribe here.

Emergency? We Have a Page for That


In an emergency, you may need the services of Social Security. To assist when severe weather or other emergencies occur, we maintain a special web page to share important information about our services.

Social Security's emergency page keeps the public up to date on Social Security office closures. It also gives information on signing up for direct deposit. With electronic payments, people who have been displaced don't have to worry about where their next payment will be mailed to — it will show up in their bank account on schedule.

The site also provides information on emergency payments and links to the websites of other organizations that provide emergency services such as FEMA, Ready America, Federal Employee Education & Assistance Fund, and the U.S. Postal Service.

Acquaint yourself with the emergency page at

Social Security Announces New Compassionate Allowances Conditions
Fast Track Disability Process Will Now Include 200 Conditions


Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced 35 additional Compassionate Allowances conditions are in effect, bringing the total number of conditions in the expedited disability process to 200. Compassionate Allowances are a way to quickly identify diseases and other medical conditions that, by definition, meet Social Security’s standards for disability benefits. The program fast-tracks disability decisions to ensure that Americans with the most serious disabilities receive their benefit decisions within days instead of months or years. These conditions primarily include certain cancers, adult brain disorders, and a number of rare disorders that affect children.

“We have achieved another milestone for the Compassionate Allowances program, reaching 200 conditions,” Commissioner Astrue said. “Nearly 200,000 people with severe disabilities nationwide have been quickly approved, usually in less than two weeks, through the program since it began in October 2008.”

Read the full press release

See all 200 Compassionate Allowances Conditions

WISE Webinar for Ticket to Work


If you are a Social Security disability beneficiary and want to work, the Ticket to Work Program can provide the support you need to transition to greater financial independence and self-sufficiency.

To find out more about our Ticket to Work Program and learn how and why you should consider community service on your career path, watch our webinar, Exploring Community Service as a Pathway to Employment: A Webinar for Social Security Beneficiaries,” on December 5, 2012 at 3:00pm EST. Register for this free web event.

Spanish webinar now on YouTube


SSA's First Spanish Webinar

Do you, or someone you know, prefer to do business with us in Spanish? Go to YouTube to watch and share our webinar, “¡Servicios del Seguro Social por Internet - en Espanol!” The webinar describes several Spanish online services, including the Retirement Estimator and applications for Social Security retirement, Medicare, and Extra Help with the cost of Medicare prescription drugs.

Social Security’s Open Government Plan 2.0 is Cover Story in Federal Managers Association Magazine


Federal Managers Association Magazine

In the Fall 2012 edition of its quarterly magazine, the Federal Managers Association (FMA) highlights the growth of open government at Social Security. The cover article outlines key elements of the agency’s refreshed Open Government plan, including a summary of milestones achieved in the first plan and new commitments for the next two years.

Register for Work Incentive Seminar Events (WISE) to Learn About the Ticket to Work Program or Work Incentives


Social Security’s Ticket to Work program supports career development for people with disabilities who are preparing to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary and offers beneficiaries with disabilities access to employment.

To find out more about our Ticket to Work Program, get some resume writing and job interview tips, and to gain some insight into what employers are looking for in a potential employee, watch our webinar, "Exploring Community Service as a Pathway to Employment: A Webinar for Social Security Disability Beneficiaries," on October 31, 2012 at 3:00pm EST. Register for this free web event.

January Retirees Should Apply Now


January Retirees Should Apply Now

If you are looking to retire in January 2013, now is the time to apply. The best place to apply is online. It's so easy!

In most cases, as soon as an application is submitted electronically, that's it. There are no forms to sign or paperwork to complete. In rare cases when we need additional information, Social Security will contact you. You're always first in line when you go online at

Social Security Announces 1.7 Percent Benefit Increase for 2013


Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 62 million Americans will increase 1.7 percent in 2013, the Social Security Administration announced today.

The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 56 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2013. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2012.

Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $113,700 from $110,100. Of the estimated 163 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2013, nearly 10 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum.

Information about Medicare changes for 2013, when announced, will be available at For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums.

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated.

Learn more about the COLA for 2013

Register for Work Incentive Seminar Events (WISE) to Learn About the Ticket to Work Program or Work Incentives


Social Security’s Ticket to Work program supports career development for people with disabilities who are preparing to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary and offers beneficiaries with disabilities access to employment.

To find out more about our Ticket to Work Program, get some resume writing and job interview tips, and to gain some insight into what employers are looking for in a potential employee, watch our webinar, "Hiring People with Disabilities: The Employer's Point of View," on October 10, 2012 at 3:00pm EST. Register for this free web event.

Social Security’s Open Government Portal – A New Look and Feel


In our continuing quest to ensure our Open Government portal remains an open resource for the public, we have redesigned the page to make the most relevant information more easily accessible. We aimed to make the layout more streamlined and simple, the menu more intuitive and easy to navigate, and above all, present the most popular information front and center! Improving our transparency and accountability to the public we serve is our priority. We will continually improve this website based on your feedback. We encourage you to share your ideas and comments about our page redesign at

Webcast: Information for Individuals Who Prefer to Do Business with Us in Spanish


SSA's First Spanish Webinar

Are you a Spanish speaker and interested in information about Social Security, in Spanish? Or maybe, do you know someone who prefers to do business with us in Spanish? Find out how you, or someone you know, can do business in Spanish, using our online services! Watch our previously recorded webinar,"¡Servicios del Seguro Social por Internet - en Espanol!", presented in Spanish, to learn how you can get an estimate of your future retirement estimates and apply for Social Security retirement benefits, Medicare, or the Extra Help with the cost of Medicare prescription drugs.

Social Security Publishes Revised Open Government Plan 2.0


SSA's Revised Open Government Plan 2.0

We've posted our Open Government Plan 2.0 update, which reflects our continuing commitment to the principles of openness and accountability. As a government agency that touches the lives of all Americans, our efforts to be more transparent about our work, increase participation in dialogues affecting our programs, and encourage collaboration with other organizations, all work towards Social Security’s mission of delivering services that meet the changing needs of the public.

Two years ago, we released our first Open Government Plan. Our refreshed plan includes additional input we received from Open Government stakeholders, the public and our employees; summarizes the progress we have made in implementing Open Government principles at our agency; and outlines additional commitments we expect to meet in the next two years.

We encourage you to read through our refreshed Open Government Plan, and share your ideas and comments with us at

You may follow our progress on this plan and other Open Government activities on our website.

Referrals Help OIG Combat Social Security Fraud


SSA's Office of the Inspector General Logo

Social Security's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is responsible for detecting and preventing fraud, waste, and abuse in Social Security's programs and operations. OIG does that, in part, by taking appropriate action on allegations of fraud submitted by you, your clients, and other members of the public.

Of the 103,567 allegations of fraud the agency received in fiscal year 2011, roughly one-third came from Social Security employees, one-third came from public citizens, and the rest came from other government agencies, law enforcement, Congress, and other sources.

To assist the OIG in stopping Social Security fraud, visit While there, please check out the office's new blog as well as how to follow the OIG on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Congressional Testimony


Carolyn Colvin portrait

On July 25, two Social Security executives testified before two different Congressional committees.

Carolyn Colvin, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security, appeared before the Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources to discuss the Supplemental Security Income program. She presented what the agency has learned "through 40 years of experience in providing assistance under a complex, means-tested program, and how we have used technology and other innovative approaches to efficiently and effectively make sure that only eligible individuals receive the right amount of benefits at the right time." Read the transcript.

LaTina Burse Greene, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy, testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging about the importance of the Social Security retirement decision, and how it affects women. "When people ask us ‘what is the best age to start receiving retirement benefits?’ we tell them there is no 'best age' for everyone and that, ultimately, it is their choice. It is a personal decision that should be based on a number of factors, such as their current cash needs, health, and family longevity," Greene explained. Read the transcript.

Stay up to date on all of Social Security's Congressional testimony.

Social Security and Kaiser Permanente Begin Partnership to Speed Up Disability Decisions: Unprecedented Agreement Will Cut Cost, Save Time and Improve Service


Health IT logo

The Social Security Administration announced today that Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest healthcare providers, will electronically transmit complete medical records for its patients to the agency with the appropriate consent. Social Security requests about 70,000 patient files from Kaiser Permanente each year so this seamless new system will save time and money for both partners as well as allow Social Security to make faster and more accurate decisions.

Over the last few years, Social Security had entered into similar agreements with several smaller providers to exchange medical records electronically over the Nationwide Health Information Network. Today’s agreement marks the agency’s first move into using health information technology on a large-scale basis.

“I am confident that people will look back at today’s announcement as the most significant improvement in our disability determination process since the program began in 1956. In today’s world it makes no sense for us to chase down paper records on an individual basis,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. “We are thrilled that Kaiser Permanente is now one of our key agents for change.”

“Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to supporting safe and secure health information exchange for members and our work with Social Security will enable our patients to obtain quicker disability decisions on their benefits,” said Lisa Caplan, Kaiser Permanente’s Senior Vice President and Business Information Officer. “We are delighted to be working with such an innovative agency.”

More information on Social Security’s use of health IT is available at

Testimony before Senate Finance Committee


Michael Astrue Portrait

Recently, Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue testified before Congress about the service and value we provide to the American public.

In his testimony, he discussed the agency’s accomplishments the past few years and the resources the agency needs in order to continue providing outstanding public service.

“Our accomplishments demonstrate the direct correlation between funding and, ” Astrue stated.

Social Security Releases Popular Baby Names for 2011


On Monday, May 14, 2012, Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced the top baby names for 2011 on the Today show. Social Security started compiling baby name lists in 1997, and the agency’s website offers lists of baby names for each year since 1880. Social Security is America’s source for most popular baby names because parents supply this information to the agency when applying for a child’s Social Security number at the time of the child’s birth. Check the Baby Names page on May 18th for the 2011 list of most popular names by State.

The top baby names announcement drives a lot of traffic to the Social Security website and helps to promote other important information about Social Security programs and services, including the Extra Help Program and the new online Social Security statement.

Baby Names Picture

Social Security Statement Now Available Online


Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced an online version of the Social Security Statement is now available at The new online Statement provides eligible workers with transparent, secure and convenient access to their Social Security earnings and benefit information.

“Our new online Social Security Statement is simple, easy-to-use and provides people with estimates they can use to plan for their retirement,” Commissioner Astrue said “The online Statement also provides estimates for disability and survivors benefits, making the Statement an important financial planning tool. People should get in the habit of checking their online Statement each year, around their birthday, for example.”

The online Statement helps with financial planning and provides workers a convenient way to determine whether their earnings are accurately posted to their Social Security records. This feature is important because Social Security benefits are based on average earnings over a person’s lifetime. If the earnings information is not accurate, the person may not receive all the benefits to which he or she is entitled.

The online Statement also provides the opportunity to save or print the personalized Statement for financial planning discussions with family or a financial planner.

Providing the online Statement through our new, robust verification process is one of the first milestones in our Open Government flagship initiative to make Social Security a more open agency.

For more information about the new online Statement, please go to

SSA and DoD Collaborate on Initiative for Wounded Warriors Applying for Disability Benefits


US flag patch on uniform

The Social Security Administration and the Department of Defense (DoD) are working together to improve access to disability benefits for the nation’s Wounded Warriors, service members, veterans, and their dependents. A new nationwide project enables Social Security disability case processing sites to receive military medical records from multiple DoD facilities with a single request to a centralized DoD site. As of today, this initiative is in its first phase of nationwide expansion.

“Receiving electronic medical records for our Wounded Warriors and other military personnel will significantly shorten the time it takes to make a disability decision,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. “This new process will improve the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of the disability program.”

The new DoD-Social Security collaboration consolidates requests for medical records from Social Security to a single location that has access to DoD records in a central electronic repository. Among other advantages, this will yield faster delivery of DoD medical records to Social Security, and reduce the time it takes to make a medical decision on a disability claim.

A key project milestone in Social Security’s recently published Open Government Plan 2.0, this collaborative effort is the first step towards the long-term goal of a fully automated solution of improving medical information sharing using health information technology and the Nationwide Health Information Network Exchange.

For more information on Social Security’s use of health IT, visit

SSA Recognized for FOIA Success


On March 12, the Department of Justice kicked off Sunshine Week with a celebration marking, among other things, the third anniversary of the release of Attorney General Holder’s FOIA Guidelines.

Social Security’s Deputy Commissioner, Carolyn W. Colvin, was among representatives from four federal agencies to receive recognition and speak at this commemoration. Ms. Colvin highlighted Social Security’s own Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) successes over the last year. Other representatives hailed from the Federal Communications Commission, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of the Interior.

In his remarks, the Attorney General recognized that Sunshine Week presents the government with the opportunity to realize the promise of FOIA, fulfilling what President Obama has called “a profound national commitment to ensuring an open government.”

For more information about Social Security’s FOIA activities, visit the agency’s FOIA webpage. Information about the activities of all federal agencies, is available in agency Annual FOIA Reports and Chief FOIA Officer Reports, on the Office IP website and

DOJ Holder Colvin Sunshine Wk 2012

Left to right: Jasson Seiden, David Lu, Melanie Ann Pustay (DOJ), Tony West (DOJ), Stacy Rodgers, Carolyn Colvin, Eric Holder (DOJ), Mona Finch, Dawn Wiggins, Patricia Bellamy, Dan Callahan, Anthony Tookes

Social Security Board of Trustees: Projected Trust Fund Exhaustion Three Years Sooner Than Last Year


On Monday, April 23, 2012, the Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined assets of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds will be exhausted in 2033, three years sooner than projected last year. The DI Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2016, two years earlier than last year’s estimate. The Trustees also project that OASDI program costs will exceed non-interest income in 2012 and will remain higher throughout the remainder of the 75-year period.

Read the press release...

Open Government at Social Security: A Refreshed Plan


SSA Open Government Plan Cover

We published our Open Government Plan 2.0, which highlights successes from our 2010 plan and lays out new commitments for increasing transparency, expanding opportunities for public participation, and enhancing efforts to collaborate with other organizations to improve service to the public. We sought public feedback in developing this plan, and now invite further review and ideas for improving it.

Review the plan

SSA's Medical Release Form Goes Electronic


On March 22, 2012, Commissioner Astrue signed an Open Letter to Healthcare Providers, Health Information Managers, and Medical Records Administrators about Social Security’s new electronic signature process for the Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration (Form SSA-827).

The SSA-827 gives us a claimant's authorization to obtain medical and other information we need to determine whether the individual is disabled. Under the current online application process, claimants must print, sign, and mail a paper copy to a Social Security office.

Starting April 21, 2012, adults who apply online for disability benefits will have the option to electronically sign and submit their SSA-827s. Once signed, the form goes directly into Social Security’s system. We expect the new process to improve our process and provide better service to our customers. Specifically, it will reduce the disability application processing time for applicants, which can result in their receiving much needed medical insurance coverage and cash benefits sooner. Learn more about Social Security’s new electronic signature process.

Leading the U.S. Social Security Administration: Insights from Commissioner Michael Astrue


michael astrue portait

The Social Security Administration’s Commissioner, Michael Astrue, was recently interviewed on the Federal News Radio’s “IBM Business of Government Hour.” Commissioner Astrue discussed the agency’s complex management challenges; how we are working to reduce disability backlogs and improve our service and stewardship efforts; and what the future holds for the Social Security Administration.

Listen to the interview

Sunshine Week


March 11-17 is Sunshine Week. This year’s theme is “Put Sunshine in Government.” All week long, this national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information is celebrated by government, news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know. Since its launch in March 2005, people have celebrated this initiative in mid-March each year to coincide with President James Madison's birthday on March 16th. Madison, who was instrumental in ratifying the Constitution, once wrote, “knowledge will forever govern ignorance,” and “people should arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives.”

Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger. The week highlights the public's right to know what its government is doing, and why. For more information we invite you to explore this open government site and to visit our freedom of information webpage.

Refreshing Our Open Government Plan


SSA Open Government logo

It is time to refresh our Open Government Plan, which will highlight our successes from the first one and lay out new commitments going forward. Two years ago, we published Social Security's first Open Government Plan. In it, we outlined our steps to increase transparency, public participation, and collaboration with other organizations to improve service to the public. We invite you to contribute your thoughts and ideas for our refreshed plan, which we expect to publish in April.

Webcast: New Requirement to File Disability Appeals Online


Beginning March 16, 2012, the Social Security Administration is requiring representatives who request, and are eligible for, direct fee payment, to file reconsiderations on medically denied Title II and Title XVI disability or blindness claims, using the Internet Disability Appeal web portal found at

To find out more about filing appeals electronically, watch our webcast, "Filing a Disability Appeal Online," which will be available beginning March 7, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. EST. Register for this free web event.

America Saves Week!


America Saves Week

From February 19 – February 26, 2012, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes America Saves Week, a national campaign to promote financial stability. This annual event is an opportunity to encourage good savings behavior and enhance financial security. SSA supports the effort to bring greater awareness to the importance of building a financial safety net.

Social Security is the foundation on which to build retirement security, but other savings and investments are necessary. The sooner you start, the more time you will have to save for a comfortable future. For many years, SSA has been at the forefront of financial literacy and promoting good savings habits through public presentations.

When thinking about retirement, be sure to plan for the long term. Watch this video from Social Security's Kojuan Almond, for helpful tips!

To learn how to save and invest for retirement, visit The website provides helpful information furnished by over 20 federal agencies, including SSA.

To help determine how much you need to save, go to and click on the Ballpark E$timate link.

For more information on America Saves Week, go to

Spanish Language Webinar!


Spanish Webinar

On Thursday, February 23rd at 2pm EST, we will host the agency’s first-ever Spanish-language webinar, entitled,”¡Servicios del Seguro Social por Internet - en Espanol!”. We will present and describe the Spanish-language Internet services, including applications for retirement, Medicare, and Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs. We will also describe the Spanish Retirement Estimator, a tool that offers personalized estimates of future Social Security retirement benefits. The webinar will include a live interactive segment during which participants may ask questions about the new Spanish online applications.

Looking Back and Looking Forward


We’d like to share our 2011 Performance and Accountability Report with you. The report combines the agency's annual performance report with its audited financial statements to provide full disclosure of financial and programmatic operations. It also describes Social Security's programs and organization, and how the agency benefits the public and achieves its mission.

Please look for it at

We look forward to working with you to reach our common goals in 2012. Happy New Year from all of us at Social Security.

Patty Duke Applies Online for Social Security and Medicare


After years of telling people they can apply online for Social Security in their pajamas, Patty Duke has taken her own advice. Duke, who turned 65 in December, applied online for retirement and Medicare benefits from home at

“I urge my fellow baby boomers to go online to," said Duke. "If you’re not sure how to get started on the computer, ask a loved one to help you out. I did, and it was so easy.”

Watch the YouTube video of Patty Duke applying for benefits at

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